Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A is for Alphabet, By Bonnie Mansell

Several years ago I asked the members of our writing group to share the memories of our class in an "ABC" book, which we published as About Bonnie's Class. I have decided to go back to those stories and publish them here for a wider audience. This first entry is my introduction to the book. In the weeks to come, I will publish one alphabet story in additon to the stories currently being written and submitted. I hope you enjoy them. If you would like to add your own "alphabet memory," please do so, following the guidelines on this page.

If you are having trouble making comments on the stories you read, please send an email to me at, and I will be glad to post your comment.

A is for Alphabet

The alphabet is one conglomerate whole, made up of 26 individual items. It might be considered a storage container for its parts, or, perhaps more appropriately, a home for its family. In fact, when the individual letters are written alone or in alphabetical order, we can discern very few meaningful combinations. It is the purposeful grouping of letters, the parts of the whole, which allows us to generate sense in an endless variety of ways. So, the alphabet is dependant on its members to give it significance, and the letters are dependant on one another to create a meaningful flow of thought.

Sometimes two letters can seem to be so widely separated that they cannot possibly come together to create meaning. “A” and “Z,” for example, are polar opposites. There are very few words that combine these two letters. But some of those few words conjure up striking images. Azaleas are among the most beautiful flowers; the Aztecs were among the most creative and advanced people of the ancient world; and azure is the color of the clearest blue sky.

People are much like the individual letters of the alphabet. The analogy breaks down, of course, as all analogies do. Unlike a single letter of the alphabet, we each have value and meaning. But it is also true that we discover that meaning through our interaction with others. As writers we know the need for alone time. We know that we often need to free ourselves from external distractions in order to distill our thoughts into words. But we also recognize our need for community. It is in community that we express the ideas we formulate in private. And it is in community that we listen to the ideas and stories of other individuals. It is community that makes us two-way people.

Madeleine L’Engle, expresses the thought this way:

"My moments of being most complete, most integrated, have come either in complete solitude or when I am being part of a body made up of many people going in the same direction." (The Irrational Season, p. 158)
She also says that although, as a writer, she must write alone, she recognizes that her solitude must be “encircled by community.” In the memoir class many of us have discovered that we are, in fact, “encircled by community,” and that encircling has provided us with protection and strength, as well as the opportunity for personal growth. We find that our little circle is made up of individuals who may have little or much in common, yet our interaction helps us to focus on the things that unite us, rather than those that divide us. And, like the letters of the alphabet, we come together and make new meaning. Again to quote L’Engle:
"Wherever there is unity in diversity, then we are free to be ourselves; it cannot be done in isolation; we need each other." (Circle of Quiet, p. 237)

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Kodi, by Allison Mansell

I have been trying all week to write my thoughts about Kodi. I even thought about posting them on this blog, but I couldn't get much further than my title, "How can this hurt so much?" Today Allison posted a story on Downey Daily Photos. I am reposting it here because she has captured my ache and written the words that I could not. This is the first time I have published something on this blog without permission from the author, but I trust she will forgive me.  ~ Bonnie

A week ago, an amazing dog was taken away from this world tragically, prematurely, and terribly. He was hit by a speeding car and died forty minutes later in the hospital, licking his human's faces and wagging his tail, still loving them to the end.

Heart broken doesn't begin to cover the feeling of loss. Kodi won the heart of anyone close enough to see his tail wag. His face was always smiling, even during his tantrums when we wouldn't throw the ball for him. His fur was the perfect place to nuzzle your face after a long day of being with people.

All he wanted in life was to be with his humans. Playing, sleeping, running, barking, he lived to love them. He loved without conditions.

He was a good dog.

He went with them everywhere. Stores, parties, in-law's houses, vacations, etc.

I mourn. Not in a way of a human death of course, but in a way that I have never felt before. Never again will I see his sweet face cocked to the side like he is trying to understand me. Never again will I hear his bark as I'm walking through the door. Never again will his tail wag ceaselessly for those he loved.

"One last word of farewell, dear master and mistress. Whenever you visit my grave, say to yourselves with regret but also happiness in your hearts at the remembrance of my long happy life with you: "Here lies one who loves us and whom we loved." No matter how deep my sleep I shall hear you, and not all the power of death can keep my spirit from wagging a grateful tail."
Eugene O'Neill
To read Allison's blog, with more stories and photos from Allison, Joan, and Pam, please see: Downey Daily Photos

Monday, June 6, 2011

A Design From The House Of Eva, by Barbara Sparks

Barbara's beautiful tribute to her mother is modeled after a poem called, "My Mother Pieced Quilts," by Teresa Palomo Acosta. To read the original, please click here: Original Poem. After you have read and commented on Barbara's inspirational piece, try your own hand at this model, writing about someone special in your life. I will post those that are submitted according to the guidelines. And I'll publish my own version in honor of my grandfather, who baked bread.~ Bonnie

They started out as
simple bolts of cloth
without shape
without a defined purpose
sitting idly on a table
without a hint of what they were to become.

Choose me, use me
make me come alive
may have been their cry
if they could speak.
They longed for that loving touch
of a skilled seamstress
to transform them
to give them a home
away from that lonely, cold store.

Mother, you came and rescued them
You had that loving touch
Your hands gave life to the cloth
Your hands turn cloth into works of art.

You may have chosen the special form it took
from a pattern book
But sometime patterns were not good enough
so you searched the expensive stores for that special look
that you couldn’t find in the pattern book.

You wanted the outfits of the rich and powerful elite
and when you spotted them
you simply sketched a picture of what you felt was worthy of your child
added your special unique touch
drew a pattern on newspaper
cut it out and the the magic began.

Sometimes you transformed those bolts of cloth into
an entire wardrobe for summer camp
or a wardrobe for a new year of school
A bolt may have been a beautiful dress for a fraternity court.

What a sight your daughter was as she entered the room
on that special night
No one knew how small the price for such magnificent clothing
No one knew that your daughter’s outfits were not from a store but were one of a kind
A Design from The House of Eva
More precious than any commercially made ones could ever be
Mother, the creations made with your hands were yet another way you expressed your love for me

Thursday, June 2, 2011


A couple of weeks ago we had the very special privilege of participating in this milestone in Dora's life. Did you know that one can be Bar or Bat Mitzvahed at 83? Because David says in the Psalms that the average life span is around 70 years old, you are more or less "starting over" at 70, so 83 is the equivalent of 13 -- the second time around! Thank you, Dora, for letting us share in this event! 

My 3 brohers attended Hebrew School, they were all Bar-Mitzvahed. At that time Girls were not permitted  to be Bat-Mitzvahed.  My Brother Jay taught me to sing "Ein Kal La Heinu.  I was 8 years old.
When I was 10, I was sewing buttons on a blouse on a Saturday morning.  My father said "Dora, you had all week to sew, today is Sabath.'  Papa went to the bookcase and gave me the 5 Books of Moses to read, that was my introduction to the Torah.

Today, I reflect on the past and live in the present.  On Friday night services, when the names of the sick are read, it gives me the opportunity to make phone calls, to chat and cheer them up.  When the names on the Yarzeit list are read, I remember those that are gone.  When I lost my son Mitchell and my Husband, I had a very heavy heart.  Now, I have a lighter heart. through my Jewish faith, God does make your heart lighter.

I love my Religious Faith and being Jewish.  I learned many things from my studies with my Rabbi and Cantor.  "Thank You"  Rabbi Warshaw and Cantor Ken for all your help to prepare me for my Bat-Mitzvah.

I am grateful to have my Family:  My Brother Jay, 4 children, 3 Grandchildren and 3 Great-Grandsons.  I am blessed and life is good. 

                                L'CHAYIM    ---    TO LIFE.